The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday declared illegal the suspension of mobile phone services on the pretext of ‘security concerns’.
It is common practice for mobile phone services to be suspended in Pakistan’s cities on ‘sensitive’ religious events like Ashura and Eid Miladun Nabi.
Justice Athar Minallah, announcing a verdict reserved on September 21, 2017 on multiple petitions filed by a citizen and telecommunication companies, said that suspension of mobile phone services by the federal government and other authorities is illegal and tantamount to exceeding their authority.
The petitions had argued that suspension of mobile phones around major events is a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens and against the Telecommunication (Reorganisation) Act 1996.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had responded saying that it was the government which issued the orders for suspension, while the federal government had defended itself by relying on Article 54 (2) of the Telecommunication (Reorganisation) Act 1996, which states: “During a war or hostilities against Pakistan by any foreign power or internal aggression or for the defence or security of Pakistan, the Federal Government shall have preference and priority in telecommunication systems over any license.”
A report released in 2015 highlighted the socio-economic losses incurred by the country due to suspension of cell phone services. It said that the suspension has adverse impacts on the economy and productivity at work while also restricts access to emergency services and contributes to an increase in panic in the country.